History of Nougat
The earliest mentions of natif, a confection similar to white nougat, date back to the 10th century. This sweet was said to come from the city of Harran, in modern-day Turkey. Around this time, natif seems to have been eaten in the region of Aleppo, Syria, and Baghdad, Iraq, as well as in parts of Central Asia.
The confection that we now refer to as white nougat appears to have originated in 15th-century Spain, and by the early 18th century was being produced in Montélimar, France, where it remains a specialty confection.
Varieties of Nougat
People who are used to the nougat in candy bars may be surprised at the rich, intense flavor and dense texture of traditional European nougat. Traditional nougat comes in two main varieties, white and brown.
- White nougat is the most common variety of traditional European nougat. Notably, egg whites are added to the main ingredients of sugar, honey, nuts (typically almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or pistachios) and sometimes dried fruit. The egg whites make the nougat lighter, softer, and chewier in texture.
- Brown nougat does not contain egg whites. Instead, it is made with caramelized sugar, and tends to be harder and darker in color.
- Viennese nougat, also known as German nougat, is a significantly different type of confection, made with sugar, cocoa, and nuts (traditionally hazelnuts).
Nougat Around the World
Nougat can be served as a standalone confection, or it can be covered in chocolate or used as a candy filling. European candies made with nougat typically feature it as a primary ingredient, rather than as a layer in a candy bar.
In southern Europe, nougat is especially popular during the holiday season, and hosts may set out a plate for guests, or distribute small wrapped parcels of the sweet.
There are many local names for nougat, including turrón in Spain, torrone in Italy, and mandolato in Greece. Nougat is a French word, derived from the Latin nux, which means “nut."
Middle Eastern countries also make forms of this confection, which may include ingredients such as rose or orange water. In Australia, mixed-nut nougat in both hard and soft consistencies is popular, and Asian nations make an assortment of uniquely flavored treats. In Britain, nougat is a popular sweet sold at fairgrounds and seaside resorts, where it's often flavored with fruit.
Nougat in Candy Bars
In the United States, nougat is often used as a filling for candy bars and sweets. This type of nougat, while loosely based on the European version, is made differently.
The nougat filling in American candy bars such as Snickers, Milky Way, and Baby Ruth typically features corn syrup that has been aerated with soy protein or gelatin -- ingredients that are not found in traditional nougat recipes. The 3 Musketeers candy bar famously features whipped nougat covered in chocolate.